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Exercise & Athletic Recovery: A Three-Part Plan for Optimal Nutrition

Refuel. Rebuild. Rehydrate. Incorporating these three parts in the recovery phase of any athletic performance plan or workout program will help to ensure that your body is getting the nutrition it needs to perform at its best over time. The better the recovery nutrition program, the better the body will be when embarking on the next physical event.

Part Three: Rehydrate

This part of recovery is aimed at replacing body fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat during the performance of exercise. Athletes should consume plenty of fluids. It is a good idea to drink a glass of water an hour before exercise.

But, water alone is not enough. It is also important to get electrolytes to achieve a proper balance within the body. What are electrolytes? Generally speaking, they are particles that carry a positive or negative charge. In the body, electrolytes are the essential minerals found in body fluids, ie. blood, sweat and urine.

When electrolytes are consumed and dissolve, they are converted into positive and negative charges. These charges help balance nerve impulses (including breathing and heart beat), and regulate the flow of water/fluid in and out of cells. Electrolytes are critical in keeping the body functioning properly.The main electrolytes involved in rehydration for sports recovery are:

  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Sodium

Sodium and potassium are key minerals that can be lost during exercise through the sweat glands. Sodium and potassium both play roles in muscle contraction. To initiate muscle contraction, nerves release acetylcholine which binds to receptors, that in turn cause an influx of sodium ions that depolarize the cell membrane. This releases calcium, which then works with enzymes that help to enable the muscles to contract. Potassium channels open up after a short time, allowing potassium to flow and repolarize the cell membrane. Normal ionic charges are re-established by pumping sodium out of the cell, and potassium in. It is important to have a balance of these minerals, as an excess loss of sodium or potassium can lead to muscle cramps.

Remember that electrolytes are essential in ensuring proper function of muscles and the nervous system. Drinking water is important, but electrolytes must be replenished to achieve the rehydration needed for balanced sports recovery and continued performance.

Look for the next newsletter from Albion Human Nutrition.